NFC North draft grades: Bears advance slick offseason makeover

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2018 NFL Draft. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC North.


BEST PICK: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Chicago Bears, Round 1, No. 8 overall

Vic Fangio has a new muse. Last year in Chicago, the defensive savant quietly fielded a top-10 unit -- in both scoring and total D -- and did so without the kind of centerpiece ILB that really fuels his 3-4 scheme (think: Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco). Then suddenly, like manna from heaven, the perfect specimen fell right into Fangio's lap last Thursday night. This defense calls for inside linebackers to run stuff, blitz and cover. Check, check and double check. Smith is a prototypical modern linebacker, with the elite athleticism and premium instincts to thrive on all three downs. This man is gonna stuff the stat sheet. No one will be surprised if he takes home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Perhaps the only downside to this extraordinary prospect hitting Halas Hall is his uber-ordinary surname. Butkus, Singletary, Urlacher ... Smith? Annoying. Let's call him Roquan and only Roquan. Like Madonna.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Tyrell Crosby, OL, Oregon
Detroit Lions, Round 5, No. 153 overall

Projected by many draft sages, including our own Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah, as a top-70 overall prospect, Crosby was still sitting on the board when the Lions' turn came up midway through the fifth round. And given that Detroit apparently entered this draft hell-bent on fixing its ground game (more on that below), Crosby was far too enticing to pass on in the dog days* of Day 3. (Watching every pick in the draft, from No. 1 through 256, is a bit of a grind.)* NFL Films' Greg Cosell, who has forgotten more football than I'll ever know, sees Crosby as a guard in the NFL -- and a hell of a guard at that: "I believe he has the physical and competitive traits to be an All-Pro OG in the NFL," Cosell told the Lions' team site.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
Green Bay Packers, Round 6, No. 207 overall

His full name is actually Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown. And, as this highly engaging Sports Illustrated profile chronicles, ETIJSB was basically bred for athletic excellence, Mensa membership and general world domination. He now stands 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, and clocked a 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. So, how does a wide receiver like this -- one who played his college ball at a relatively visible program in South Bend -- last until the 207th pick? That's not entirely clear at this point. Some of it undoubtedly had to do with his underwhelming production at Notre Dame last season: 33 catches for 515 yards and four touchdowns. But, as anyone who watched the Irish in 2017 knows, ND's quarterback play was ... lacking. In 2016, with DeShone Kizer delivering the football, St. Brown posted 58 catches for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Something tells me Aaron Rodgers can bring out more of the that ETIJSB.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

Rank 1
Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears

» Round 1: (No. 8 overall) Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia.

» Round 2: (No. 39) James Daniels, OL, Iowa; (No. 51) Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis.

» Round 4: (No. 115) Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky.

» Round 5: (No. 145) Bilal Nichols, DL, Delaware.

» Round 6: (No. 181) Kylie Fitts, Edge, Utah.

» Round 7: (No. 224) Javon Wims, WR, Georgia.

This offseason in Chicago's been Mitchapalooza. The franchise has done everything possible to make its second-year quarterback feel comfortable, starting with the hiring of the hottest young offensive mind available (Matt Nagy) and continuing with a splurge on free-agent pass catchers ( Allen RobinsonTaylor Gabriel and Trey Burton). The Bears maintained this game plan in the draft -- well, after No. 8 overall, when they acquired their defensive Mitchell TrubiskyRoquan Smith. (The inside linebacker's a perfect quarterback for Vic Fangio's defense, boasting the versatile skill set and football IQ today's NFL teams crave in second-level defenders.) After that, Ryan Pace went back to pampering his 23-year-old signal-caller. Daniels, an interior O-lineman who spent much of the pre-draft process as a first-round mock mainstay, feels like a steal at No. 39. And Miller instantly become a favorite of anyone who popped in his tape, as a hyper-competitive playmaker who gets absolutely everything out of his 5-11, 201-pound frame. Yeah, life is good these days for "The Pretty Boy Assassin," who's being put in prime position for a breakout sophomore campaign. One note on the Day 3 haul: Nichols was a small-school favorite of Draft Twitter, especially after his fine showing at the East-West Shrine Game. Sleeper potential. With a nice draft-day video.

Rank 2
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers

» Round 1: (No. 18 overall) Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville.

» Round 2: (No. 45) Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa.

» Round 3: (No. 88) Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt.

» Round 4: (No. 133) J'Mon Moore, WR, Missouri.

» Round 5: (No. 138) Cole Madison, OL, Washington State; (No. 172) JK Scott, P, Alabama; (No. 174) Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, South Florida.

» Round 6: (No. 207) Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame.

» Round 7: (No. 232) James Looney, DE, Cal; (No. 239) Hunter Bradley, LS, Mississippi State; (No. 248) Kendall Donnerson, Edge, Southeast Missouri State.

Brian Gutekunst's first rodeo went pretty darn well. And while he bounced around the draft board on opening night -- deftly picking up an extra 2019 first-rounder from New Orleans in the process -- the first-year GM eventually seemed to settle into a pretty straightforward game plan: pass defense early, developmental pass catchers late. With their first two picks, the Packers grabbed a pair of corners with fine instincts, supreme ball skills ... and divergent playing styles. Alexander's a feisty, explosive trash talker who excels in press-man coverage. Jackson's long, strong and soft-spoken, having spent most of his time at Iowa in zone defense, clueing the quarterback. In the third round, Green Bay snatched Burks, a hybrid linebacker (and former safety) with the coverage skills Green Bay has seriously lacked at the position of late. On Day 3, the Pack went after a series of skyscraping wideouts: Moore (6-3), Valdes-Scantling (6-4) and St. Brown (6-5) all provide the kind of height that served the departed Jordy Nelson quite well during his tenure in Green Bay.

Rank 3
Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions

» Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Frank Ragnow, C/OG, Arkansas.

» Round 2: (No. 43) Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn.

» Round 3: (No. 82) Tracy Walker, S, Louisiana-Lafayette.

» Round 4: (No. 114) Da'Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama.

» Round 5: (No. 153) Tyrell Crosby, OL, Oregon.

» Round 7: (No. 237) Nick Bawden, FB, San Diego State.

Hey, did anybody know the Lions haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving day 2013?? [Ducks four-ton haymaker from Detroit's Joe Louis fist] Yeah, every single Lions supporter is sick and tired of this go-to statistical burn. Not because it's irrelevant -- Detroit's ground game has ranked 32nd30th and 32nd over the past three seasons -- but because it's the exact kind of humiliating, interminable ineptitude that routinely causes proud Detroiters to shake their heads and utter those three tortured words: Same old Lions. Well, Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia say enough is enough! Detroit devoted four of its six picks to solving this problem once and for all, starting with Ragnow, Pro Football Focus' top-rated college center in each of the past two years. He immediately slots into the starting lineup at either center or guard, depending on where the Lions want to put Graham Glasgow. (The guess here is that Ragnow mans the pivot.) In Round 2, the Lions added Johnson, a powerful, jump-cutting back with a Le'Veon Bell-like patience that rewards good blocking. On Day 3, Detroit scooped up two more punishing run blockers, including a fullback. (Yes, a fullback! That 100-yard drought is squarely in the crosshairs.) So, what about replenishments for the 27th-ranked defense? Well, you can only fill so many needs in one draft. But yes, the limited haul there is what keeps Detroit out of "A" territory. Will Walker or Hand make a significant impact? Both offer intriguing size and tools. Oh, and one huge bonus for those Lions fans who back the Wolverines on Saturdays: Finally got your guy!

Rank 4
Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings

» Round 1: (No. 30 overall) Mike Hughes, CB, UCF.

» Round 2: (No. 62) Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh.

» Round 4: (No. 102) Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State.

» Round 5: (No. 157) Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan; (No. 167) Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn.

» Round 6: (No. 213) Colby Gossett, OG, Appalachian State; (No. 218) Ade Aruna, Edge, Tulane.

» Round 7: (No. 225) Devante Downs, LB, Cal.

Colleague Cynthia Frelund, who concocted a model that projects future player performance, identified Hughes as one of the best value picks in Round 1. I don't possess Cynthia's mental capacity, but I do share her appraisal of this selection. Tom Pelissero detailed the off-field issues that led to Hughes leaving the North Carolina football program. If Hughes maintains proper conduct off the field, he's quite an asset on it -- as a physical, ballhawking corner and an explosive return man. With All-Pro Xavier Rhodes locked into one CB slot, Hughes' selection applies pressure on 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander and 2015 first-rounder Trae Waynes. Offensive line is another area that called for attention heading into this draft -- did the Vikes do enough there? O'Neill's a fine athlete at 6-7, 297 pounds, but he has a ways to go on the fundamentals front. Gossett has NFL size, but his game needs to marinate. Moving over to tight end, Conklin caries health concerns, having suffered a Jones fracture in his foot last August. If he can stay healthy, the former Chippewa has potential as a move TE/H-back in new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's offense (the Trey Burton role).

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

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